When the 102nd Army Band of the Connecticut National Guard came to town, concertgoers at Suffield High School on October 19 were greeted outside the auditorium by a jazz group, a talented sub-unit of the band. That nice surprise was a good start to what turned out to be a top-notch concert. Sponsored by the First Church’s Music on High program as the beginning of a yearlong celebration of Suffield’s 350th anniversary, the event was free. As First Selectman Melissa Mack was unable to attend, Selectman Mel Chafetz opened the event with a welcome and some notes on the sponsorship and the band, and 350th Chair Kacy Colston spoke of 350th events to come.
The concert itself opened with the Army’s brass band sub-unit: a dozen musicians down in front of the stage with an assortment of shiny instruments ranging from two small trumpets to a giant Sousaphone. They started with a medley called “A Salute to Freedom,” dedicated to the veterans in the audience, who were asked to stand when their armed service’s music appeared in the medley. Then the two trumpeters went up on stage to play and were soon joined by a trombone, a French horn, and a tuba, making the Army’s brass quintet, who played while the remaining members of the full band settled into their positions. This small group made a powerful statement with “Rejoice Greatly,” a piece from Handel’s Messiah.
In the remainder of the concert, two interludes with solo numbers by two talented female reservists, soprano and alto, were interspersed among the musical pieces by the full band. The selections were widely differing in type and style, and the performances were excellent throughout.
According to the Observer’s archives, Suffield has enjoyed concerts by the 102nd Army band and the Northeast Navy Band each twice before in two decades, all sponsored by the Suffield Council for the Arts. As a special event in the 102nd’s 2003 concert here, retired Suffield schools memorable music teacher Ray Tanguay was asked to direct the band in a rousing rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Tanguay was at that time the instrument repair technician for the band, which was then based in Bristol. Its base is now in Rockville. The band was honored for its service overseas when mobilized for World War Two. It also saw Federal duty during the Korean War.